Pitt's 2013 offense could be dealt a devastating blow five-plus months before the season kicks off.
Running back Rushel Shell is considering transferring from the university, multiple sources confirmed Wednesday. As of Wednesday evening, though, he had not formally requested transfer paperwork, leaving the door open for a possible return.
What exactly is precipitating the potential move is unclear. Shell, a former Hopewell High School star, participated in the Panthers scrimmage Friday but sat out the latter half with a leg injury. He was not present at Pitt's practice Tuesday with "an excused absence."
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said Shell had "a couple things" he needed to work through, and wasn't certain of a timetable for his return. Pitt's eighth spring practice of the season is 2 p.m. today.
A source indicated that Shell met with coaches Wednesday to discuss the situation.
If Shell does choose to transfer, it would leave Chryst searching for a new starting running back heading into Pitt's first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. As a backup to now-graduated Ray Graham in 2012, Shell ran for 641 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries. His breakout performance came in Pitt's third game against Virginia Tech, when he ran for 157 yards on 23 carries.
In his four-year career at Hopewell, Shell set the Pennsylvania rushing record with 9,078 yards.
Shell was slated to be the unquestioned starter in 2013, but his potential departure would mean that junior Isaac Bennett likely would move into the starting role.
When Shell committed to the Panthers in October 2011, it was seen as a major recruiting victory for a program in turmoil. With offers from virtually every major college program, Shell verbally committed to former coach Todd Graham, but stayed firm to his commitment when Chryst took over.
Shell, whose girlfriend gave birth to twin girls in February 2012, chose to sign with the Panthers in part to stay close to his young family.
NOTE -- Defensive lineman Terrell Jackson requested and received his release to transfer from the university.
Sam Werner: email@example.com or on Twitter: @SWernerPG. First Published March 28, 2013 1:45 PM